Music: Giuseppe Verdi.
Libretto: Antonio Ghislanzoni.
Director: Ellen Kent.
Conductors: Nicolae Dohotaru and Vasyl Vasylenko.
Reviewer: Sam Lowe.
For 25 years, Ellen Kent has been producing and touring opera and ballet in the UK. Kent’s productions have reached audience numbers of around five million people since 1995. In her own words, Kent attempts to make opera “entertaining and visually spectacular for the public” and often creates work with Eastern European companies. Tonight’s visual performance of Aida fitted suitably into the grand, elaborate, and ornate Manchester Palace Theatre.
Aida is a tragic story of love, jealousy, and revenge. The central story is about the Captain of the Guard, Radames who has fallen in love with the Ethiopian slave Aida, much to the disappointment of Amneris, the Princess of Egypt, who is in love with Radames. The love triangle story plays on against the backdrop of war, religion, and politics to a climactic end.
The cast’s exemplary singing is noted from the off. It takes years of training to fine tune their own unique instrument. Their voices quite literally soar into the auditorium. The King of Egypt played by Oleksandr Forkushak, has such a powerfully deep and resonant tone that it will probably continue to reverberate around the theatre after the audience leave. The contrast in dynamics are excellently controlled.
Unfortunately, on the whole, the performers lack the ability to portray their characters convincingly. There is an attempt to characterise through the use of heightened gestures and movement. At times, the stylistic movement effectively communicates the subtext of the text but mostly it is cliche, melodramatic, and repetitive – Characters are left underdeveloped. Likewise, the movement within both acts feel theatrically underdeveloped with background supernumeraries left static at the back of the stage for a majority of the duration. It is then left to the excellently choreographed ballet sections full of ritualistic express to really get things going.
Set-Up Scenery’s visually impressive Romanesque appearance does leave a question of confusion especially for a musical set in Egypt. Lighting Designer Valeriu Cucarschi design enhances the colourful set and costume, although, at times, some effects are unnecessary and appear gimmicky – the fire shaped gobo adds nothing to the production early on in act one and the small cell where Aida is kept, feels anti-climactic in comparison to the visually impressive, set of the palace. The posters advertising Aida, create a hype over the appearance of Houdini the black stallion, but blink and you miss him – is he really a necessary part of the performance?
But not all is lacking, the fire performances are magnificent to watch, providing the entertainment in the palace court. The most visually striking effect is the cascade of falling golden glitter, suitably reflecting the court celebration of the King awarding Radames his daughter’s hand in marriage. It is an awe-inspiring moment.
Kent has directed an opera that is visually ravishing in its set design, costume, and effects. Aida is excellently choreographed and the singing is exemplary. Unfortunately, Ghislanzoni’s beautiful libretto that highlights character thoughts so poignantly are lost.
Reviewed on 5 May 2017 | Image: Contributed